Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Dictionary (of sorts) for the Territories of the Alive

I recently decided to take on a new project. I want to create a dictionary (of sorts) where various words and phrases which I have found to bear significance are brought to life. However, this dictionary will pin nothing down, has no interest in precise definitions. Instead it will share thoughts which carry some intensity to myself. I will, from time to time, present these thoughts within this blog, as the various components are created. These will not be intentionally presented in any alphabetical order (though it just dawned on me that all three sections I am publishing today begin with "A"). Just a few pieces at a time, as they are made.

Here are three words for today...


Abundance creates worlds which are in stark contrast to those realms oriented around deficit and lack. It is a concept which draws a person toward the contingencies of the Alive, toward the uncountable movements of plants and creatures. In matters of production, abundance moves counter to the efficiencies and straight lines of bureaucratic and capitalistic production (minimum expense for maximum production) toward the apparent wastefulness, the chaos of nature, along with the necessary attractions of animal/plant sexual production. Abundance can be profuse, inescapable, seducing, noisy, comforting, frightening and overwhelming. It also can awaken the soul to an almost mystical reverence toward life.

If you want a sense of the possible feelings associated with abundance:

1) take a loaf of bread into the midst of a flock of seagulls;
2) take a young child into a grocery store;
3) listen to the dizzying, and satisfying interplay of melodies within a Bach sonata;
4) submit to the beats and textures, harmonies and dissonances of much contemporary electronic music; or,
5) just count the weeds in your garden.


Assemblage: for practical purposes... think Lego!!

It is a concept often used by Deleuze and Guattari. Associated with "assemblage" is the idea that people are creative animals. With opposable thumbs, complex languages, and requisite communal connections, people are seen as makers of things. Human hands and voices create – they assemble.

While the inclination of the human-service industry seems generally directed toward identification of problem and deficit, followed by interventions to fix the identified wrong, the idea of assemblage tends to move to very different places, it turns toward people in their very acts of creation. We are invited to see these acts of creation, and the assemblages created as persistent and repetitive affirmations of life.

There is here a clear move away from negations, away from knowledges of problem and lack. However, there is also not a simple reverse move toward knowledges of the positive. Rather, the idea of assemblage, calls forth not just words of affirmation, but an active engagement in the very sociality of creating. Together we make things, endless varieties of things, thoughts, "assemblages" which affirm and honour the Alive.

So, the move is from deficit to affirmation, from knowledges to acts of creation, and from the singular to the communal.


To me, the word “Alive,” is not the same as the word “life.” We usually think of life as clearly distinguishable – something is usually considered living or it is not. We tend to leave little room for doubt. However, the Alive, as I see it, is something which is sensed. It is felt, it is encountered, but it can never be subjected to proofs. The architect and author, Christopher Alexander, writes about the Alive. He talks of how in our encounters with buildings and courtyards and other creations sometimes we are able to experience the Alive, yet at other times the Alive seems much more difficult to meet up with.

I see direct connections with the idea of rhizome, where the Alive moves in varied speeds down rhizome-like channels. The Alive, connecting people and places, animals and plants, tying all of that to the wind and the sea, to rocks and soil, buildings and roads, rooms and hallways, moving, bouncing between such numerous and varied liaising nodes. The Alive requires the social, it requires abundance, it requires relations, uncountable connections.

And, the Alive emerges within intensities rather than words. It emerges through a thickening of sense and feeling -- though it can appear within intensities which arise amidst our own relations to the relations between words.

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